This isn’t really an anniversary, but I recently realized that I have written about 150 columns for the Rome-News Tribune, and it has me looking back to the beginning of this grand adventure.

My very first column was titled “New habits are hard to make,” a play on the common phrase that says, “Old habits are hard to break.”

It was April of 2017 and then-editor Mike Colombo had called me up and asked if I would consider writing a column for the paper. Given that the biggest stuff I was writing at the time was Facebook posts, I was shocked and flattered that he thought of me, but then I became terrified.

How could I possibly have anything to write about? The idea of meeting a deadline each week and having anything worthwhile to say had me nearly backing down, but I decided to give it a shot. What did I have to lose?

It took me weeks to write that first column, so it was clear that I needed to write about how hard it is to add a new item to your list of things to get done. In that piece, I lamented that list of “shoulds” and how hard it can be to “get around to them.”

“I mean, how long have I known that I should get up early every morning and work out or do yoga or meditate or work on that new business plan or make a fresh smoothie or teach myself to crochet or paint my rocks for “Rome Rocks!” or get tonight’s dinner in the crockpot or revisit the mandolin or solve the world’s problems before I start my day? I mean, look at how well I’m doing at all of those! (Note: One habit I have developed quite well is sarcasm.)”

I liked to start sentences with “I mean” back then, a habit I’ve managed to break myself of, mostly. I knew it was going to be hard to get myself into this routine of averaging 1,000 words per week on something that anyone would be remotely interested in reading.

If you’re reading this, you have kindly decided to give me the benefit of the doubt, but I know there are a large number of folks in town who never have, or have regretted it when they did. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK.

I have gotten to the point that I really enjoy this ritual even when it is a struggle, and I am proud to know that I have written so much over those several years since.

I was proud, that is, until my daughter unexpectedly showed up to spend her COVID summer at home. Her exciting internship in North Carolina was truncated to a few weeks of online orientation, so she decided to take an online Health class to get it out of the way while she had the time.

One of the projects she was assigned for the class was to set a goal and accomplish it. So, she decided that she was going to write 1,000 words per day. Per day! She has written one novel over the last several years and she had a new idea in mind.

Interestingly, in that first column I joked about how, if it went well, I might start writing one a day instead of one a week. I thought I was being so funny, and here my young whippersnapper of a daughter comes along and shows me how it’s done.

I’m happy to report that she has pulled it off in spades, managing to write the first draft of her book, 65,000 words in 57 days, and has now entered a new phase of reading and editing and reworking the story.

I am so proud of her for her diligent approach to her goal, but I am also struck at how much any of us can accomplish when we really put our minds to it. I’ve always known that, while I feel good about my new habit, my amount of writing is nothing in comparison to people who write every day for a living.

I have ended up adding some writing to my professional offerings beyond this weekly piece, and that never would have happened if it weren’t for that initial request.

I can’t help but wonder what I might have accomplished by now, had I set my mind to something along with her. What could I have to show for that 57 days other than excuses?

This has been a very strange year, but one thing I have noticed is how many opportunities we have been given to change our patterns, to start new things and to develop new ways of thinking.

Notice I said opportunities, not challenges. I’ve been working on developing a habit of looking at things more positively. Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Isn’t that the truth?

We have been asked to accept a lot of things that are completely out of our comfort zone through all of this, and while many want to debate the details, we have all been given numerous opportunities to grow and adapt to a new reality.

What do you want to be able to look back on, at the end of all this, and see that you accomplished? I have my own list and, reminiscing about how developing new habits can pay off, I am feeling newly energized to pursue that list with gusto.

There is no question that new habits are hard to make, but the rewards can be so great that we really can’t afford to not at least try. Can we? The possibilities are endless. I wish you great success with your new habits. Now excuse me while I go dust off that mandolin.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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